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let me show you, cause talk is cheap

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The cashier pointedly thrums his fingers against the countertop as Mingyu desperately digs through his still empty pockets. His body floods with relief when his finger brushes against two more coins, pulling them out with a victorious grin. The cashier responds with a blank stare.

“$6.37,” Mingyu says, proudly, dumping the sixty some coins in his hand on the counter. The cashier slams down his three coffees in their tray, already looking behind him at the next person. “Aren’t you going to count it?” Mingyu asks. 

“Look, man, I trust you,” the cashier replies, boredly. 

“For all you know, that could be my tactic: pretending to fish for coins and end up getting two dollars off,” he points out.

“I really don’t think it is.” 

Mingyu swipes the tray off the counter with a grimace, spinning dramatically on his heel out the door. He pulls his phone out of his pocket, thumb hesitantly hovering over his bank app before ultimately deciding it’s not worth the emotional turmoil. 

The walk back to his apartment is lengthy and tumultuous, road work at every corner and several cracks in the sidewalk that nearly send Mingyu and the coffees flying. But, he doesn’t exactly have the money for gas, and he probably can make it halfway down his street before his car conks out. 

Finally, he reaches his complex, groaning at the NEEDS REPAIR sign in front of the elevator. The hike up four flights of stairs nearly breaks him, and by the second floor, he has half a mind to fall to the floor and make his home in the stairwell. Finally, he reaches his floor, trudging towards the end of the hallway. 

With a kick of the door, he crashes into his apartment.“Brought your coffees, bitches!”

“Whose dick you’d suck for those?” Minghao calls from the couch. Seokmin snickers. 

“That was literally one time. Just for the SNSD tickets!”

“And for drinks at that bougie ass bar in West Hollywood.” 

“And at that McDonalds.” 

“And for physics notes last semester.”

“Honestly, Mingyu, I think it’s been at least ten times.” 

“You’re both ungrateful brats who owe me two bucks.”

Minghao sighs, pulling two one dollar bills out of his pocket. Mingyu bites back a jealous glare. He reaches out to take it, but Minghao grabs onto his wrist, looking up at Mingyu insistently. “Are you good on rent this month?” he asks, softly. Out of the corner of his eye, Mingyu sees Seokmin look up from his phone, head tilted to the side. 

No , is the honest answer, but Mingyu nods. He’ll call his sister, butter her up a bit and get her to send a couple hundred his way, nothing he hasn’t done before. Plus, he doesn’t want his friends to worry, surely doesn’t want them to take out of their own limited funds to help him. But, Minghao doesn’t look convinced, and he’s sure Seokmin doesn’t either.

“Really, guys, I’m fine,” he tries, adds a nervous laugh that most likely does more harm than good. Minghao stares up at him for a few more excruciating moments before he eventually lets go of his wrist, but not without a disapproving twist of his mouth. 

“How’s the job search going?” Seokmin asks. Mingyu makes a noise of dissent, collapsing onto the couch, head in Seokmin’s lap, feet in Minghao’s.

“Why the fuck do I get your feet?” 

Mingyu ignores him. “Bad. None of the places I’ve interviewed for have shifts that go along with my classes.” Seokmin hums, hand going into Mingyu’s hair for comfort. 

“Time for plan B. Sugar daddy,” Seokmin says, with a laugh. “Worked for Jeongguk, didn’t it?”

Four months ago, Jeongguk was scraping up below minimum wage at his friend’s uncle’s best friend’s burger joint. Now, he’s on a flight halfway to Tokyo with his disgustingly rich, drop dead gorgeous actor boyfriend slash sugar daddy. He’s simultaneously Mingyu’s ultimate role model and the prime object of his envy. 

“Don’t mention that ass in my apartment,” Mingyu grumbles. Envy always trumps admiration. 

“He literally bought a Cartier bracelet for you for absolutely no reason at all two weeks ago,” Seokmin points out. 

Taehyung bought that for me,” Mingyu retaliates. Then, rather pensively, he adds, “It did kinda work out for him, didn’t it?”

“Oh no you don’t. That’s your seriously considering something seriously stupid voice,” Minghao says, throwing Mingyu’s feet off his lap and fixing him a stern look. Mingyu rolls his eyes.

“Dunno, could be fun. Give a rich, old guy a good time and get my rent paid in return.” Seokmin laughs again, but Minghao’s expression doesn’t waver.

“Don’t come crying to me when you get murdered in an alley.” 

“I don’t think I could do that even if I wanted to.”

——

Mingyu decides to put all thoughts of rent and jobs out of the forefront of his mind and instead work through the last few assignments of the week. He slaves over his econ class for the good half of a weekend, churns through all his calculus, and submits about five papers in the span of 3 days. He’s thoroughly exhausted and running on a couple of Monsters, half of a Cup Ramen, and two iced Americanos that he begged Minghao to buy for him.

Three days before rent payment is due, just as Mingyu is working on his final lab report, he gets a series of texts from Jeongguk. They’re all scans of developed film from various sights in Tokyo, absolutely breathtaking. Mingyu wonders if it’s too late for him to seduce Taehyung instead. 

 

mingyu

cool 

have u done the chem lab

jeongguk

>:( bitch! 

sugarseek.com 

ur welcome 

 

Mingyu stares down at the link Jeongguk’s sent, knowing exactly what it’ll lead him to. His eyes dart back and forth between his phone and the unfinished document on his computer that’s glaring back at him with inanimate judgement. With a sigh of resignation, he leans back in the chair, hesitantly tapping on the link. 

Sugar Seek is, predictably, a website for prospective sugar babies to find their match. Mingyu groans, but his finger is already hovering over the Create Profile button, dignity climbing right out the window. 

He mindlessly fills out his profile, using some dumb joke at the end of his bio that he’s sure he’s the only person in the world who finds funny. The photo selection takes a little longer, and he eventually settles for a few solo pictures from his Instagram; one of him, Seokmin, and Minghao; and one with Jeongguk from after a soccer tournament. Before he can think twice about it, he hits submit, and promptly turns off his ringer, and then his phone.

As he finishes up the report, his mind can’t help but trail back to the website. Rent is dangerously approaching, and Mingyu honestly doesn’t want to bother his sister again , and he knows, despite their assurances, neither Seokmin or Minghao can afford to help or spare the time to take on a third job to cover for him again. His parents are out of the picture, considering they pay for a considerable amount of his tuition. He shuts his laptop, side-eying his phone that’s face down on his desk. 

He figures he’ll have to pick it up at some point. Now’s as good a time as any. 

The amount of messages he’s received in the past hour and a half is completely overwhelming. He painstakingly cleans through the scammers and the too-frequent dick pics, slowly losing hope and patience, feeling himself get straighter by the minute. 

Just as he’s about to give up, he suddenly thinks of Seokmin and Minghao, who’ve worked tirelessly the past few semesters, who’ve bought him food and let him climb into their beds on particularly lonely nights, who deserve something, a lot in return. He keeps scrolling. 

One message in particular catches his eye, a simple, succinct, hey , with a pink heart emoji. And maybe Mingyu is just exhausted, or a little too curious, but he clicks on the profile picture, nearly choking on his own spit when he sees the first image. 

It’s of three guys, two unfamiliar but ethereally attractive. The third, the middle one, is unmistakably one half of Mingyu’s favorite rap group, S.Coups, or, Choi Seungcheol, in all of his broad shouldered, doe eyed, boyishly handsome glory. Mingyu prides himself on being a loyal Wonwoo stan, but he can’t deny that he’s swerved into Seungcheol’s lane a few too many times. He immediately goes back to the DMs. 

min9yu_k

are you catfishing me or do you actually know choi seungcheol

yjh95

um 

kno him … right

min9yu_k

????

 

Mingyu swipes back to the profile, scrolling through yjh95’s photos, which are all still of the three of them, although there are only three more. There’s no description on their profile, and Mingyu’s heart gives a disappointed pang. 

 

min9yu_k

it’s not nice to use other peoples pics, u know >:(

yjh95

???? these r ours

min9yu_k

ours?????

yjh95

Sorry, baby, Cheollie is painfully bad at this

Oops. Hope the baby was okay. Just slipped out. 

Anyway you r very cute and we would very much like to give u our money

 

Mingyu is rendered completely, and utterly confused. He stares blankly at his phone, fingers completely frozen, unsure even where to start to address the three messages he’s been sent. It seems too real to be staged, the implication that there’s more than one person behind the screen would take some serious creativity for a simple sugar daddy website scam. 

 

yjh95

hi so sorry the dumbass was seungcheol and the sleaze was jeonghan

this is joshua

as dumb and dumber were trying to say, we kind of all own the account together? 

basically we’re three, rich friends with way too much money for our own good and

well i guess, like jeonghan said

we’d like to give it to you

min9yu_k

???????

like im just supposed to believe choi seungcheol is trying to be my sugar daddy right now. one out of three of my sugar daddies

look, whoever u are this is quite creative but come on 

yjh95

lets see ur fourth picture is most definitely from a trauma concert, i think the first day of the ideal cut finale in LA ? just judging by the wristband ur wearing. umm thats the night wonwoo flashed his abs during lotto and a girl in the front row passed out right

min9yu_k

u could just be very good at googling.

yjh95

Oh, for fuck’s sakesjdjdjsk&skkekek84829!;’s 

 

There’s no response after a few minutes, and Mingyu can’t help but giggle at the image of three grown men fighting over a cellphone. 

 

yjh95

sorry about that 

anyway if this were, hypothetically speaking, real, would you be down?

 

Gnawing at his now chapped bottom lip, Mingyu pauses. He’s still, obviously wary, but the speed at which yjh95 deduced the setting of his concert picture was admirable, and definitely promising. It still seems too good to be true, probably was. 

 

min9yu_k

yeah, i would probably

yjh95

would you maybe be willing to meet up somewhere soon?? 

you could bring a friend, if it would make you feel better.

 

That was most definitely out of the picture, but the suggestion makes him feel just a little better. Against all seventeen versions of Minghao screaming in his brain, Mingyu closes his eyes and lets out a deep, deep breath, fully aware he’s most likely doing something that will end with him dead in an alley.

 

min9yu_k

okay, send me a time and place

 

Chucking his phone across the room, Mingyu slams his head down on his desk with a loud groan. 

——

The prospect of actually being able to make rent is the only thing keeping Mingyu from burying his head in his sheets and never coming out. 

He overanalyzes his reflection in the mirror, checking every angle of his outfit to death. If this thing goes south, he’d at least like to die looking his best. After about an hour of digging through the closet, he’d settled on his nicest pair of light wash ripped jeans that definitely did not come with all those rips and the last clean black t-shirt he owns that he grabbed off the floor. 

So, maybe not his best

The outfit is paired with his signature collection of jewelry (most, courtesy of Jeongguk): two silver chains, The Cartier bracelet, and a half a dozen rings. Fumbling with the one around his left middle finger, Mingyu stares into his own eyes, forcing his internal crisis on fast forward, and grabs his phone off of the dresser, stepping out of his room.

“Where are you going?” Minghao says, from the couch, suspiciously dragging his eyes up and down Mingyu’s figure. Mingyu startles a few steps back, he’d completely forgotten neither of them take shifts on Saturdays. 

Here’s the thing: Mingyu tried, he really tried to figure out the best way to tell Seokmin and Minghao about the situation . The conversation played in his head Doctor Strange Infinity War style: there was about one in a couple hundred trillion versions that ended up in his favor. 

“Um, the library,” Mingyu replies, dumbly. Minghao gives a blank expression that says, really, that’s the best you could do.

“If you have a date, just say so,” Seokmin sing-songs, walking out of the kitchen with a bowl of popcorn. 

“You could call it that,” Mingyu mumbles, under his breath. Seokmin makes a questioning noise but Mingyu waves him off. He pauses in front of the door, looking over his shoulder at his best friends on the couch. 

“I love you guys,” he says, earnestly, intently scanning their faces, soaking in their features for what very well could be the last time.

Seokmin coos around a mouthful of popcorn, while Minghao just rolls his eyes. “Dramatic fuck.” 

Mingyu twists his face at that, but then realizes that Minghao’s going to have to live the rest of his life knowing his last words to Mingyu were dramatic fuck . He leaves the apartment with a smug smile. 

The coffee shop he’s been instructed to meet the three at is in a part of the city Mingyu couldn’t even dream of affording. He looks down at his outfit, feeling horribly out of place among the expensive blazers, slacks, chinos, sundresses, and high heels. For the fifteenth time that day, he debates pulling out of the parking garage and driving home, or, literally doing anything else. Anything else seems better than what he’s about to do.

On the bright side, the area seems packed, people are bustling about the street and the cafe looked rather full when he drove past. It would be difficult to carry out an abduction slash murder at this time of day in this particular neighborhood. This could be the real deal, he realizes, and that’s somehow even more terrifying. 

With a final, resounding bang of his head against his steering wheel, Mingyu gets out of his car and makes his way down the street to the cafe.

He’s early, just a few minutes so. Joshua, he thinks, after a short analysis of their respective texting styles, told him to sit out front at the patio, so he takes a table for four in the corner. While he waits, he pulls out his phone, making sure his location is shared with Seokmin and Minghao, and even posting a selfie on his Instagram story with the cafe tagged for good measure. 

“You came!” a cheerful, familiar voice calls. 

Nothing could have prepared Mingyu for the sight he’s subjected to when he looks up from his phone: Choi Seungcheol’s signature dimpled grin shining down at him, flanked by the two most gorgeous men whose photos, ironically enough, do not do them justice.

Upon further research, Mingyu discovered the Joshua and Jeonghan in question were top supermodels Joshua Hong and Yoon Jeonghan, Seungcheol’s childhood friends. The three of them made the celebrity trio that are notorious for doing everything together; seen together at all events, concerts, shows, random 4 AM outings in obscure cities across the world.

Mingyu can feel himself floundering, knows he looks absolutely comical as his mouth opens and closes uselessly around poorly formed words that don’t leave his throat. After a few moments, he pulls himself out of the chair and bows at a nearly 90 degree angle. One of them snorts.

“Oh, no, you don’t have to do all that. Please, sit,” Joshua says, when Mingyu comes up. “We’re so glad you decided to come. I’m Joshua, that’s Jeonghan, and Seungcheol.”

“But, I’m sure you already knew that,” Jeonghan says, corner of his mouth quirking up. Mingyu feels his ears go red.

“Y-yeah, I did, um, I’m Mingyu, thank you for um, coming, too?” he tries, thanking whatever higher power may exist that he at least managed to remember his name. 

“Cute,” Seungcheol says, softly, and Mingyu really, really wants to scream.

Mingyu is genuinely proud of himself for being able to keep up healthy small talk for so long, considering the only few thoughts running through his mind are you’re so hot you are so hot fuck I’d do this all for free I’ve been railed to half of your discography I don’t know if I could take all three of you but I’d sure as hell try. 

They talk mostly about Mingyu, his major, what he’s interested in, a bit about his friends (Mingyu holds himself back from gushing over their accomplishments).

The three of them have astoundingly different, yet, pleasantly complimentary auras. Seungcheol, Mingyu realizes with amusement, is surprisingly shy. He tends to stutter over his words and uses far too many filler phrases for someone who, while on stage, has his tongue out of his mouth more often than in. Jeonghan, on the other hand, is succinct and bold . He says things with no regrets, with absolutely no shame, and with purpose . Joshua is some mix of the two, and by far the most level headed, leading most of the conversation with an unpracticed ease that Mingyu simultaneously envies and finds terribly attractive. 

One thing they all share is a strong level of confidence. It differs in how it manifests, but it exists, nonetheless. It’s not cocky, or out of insecurity, but rather a genuine belief in self. 

Jeonghan, true to his nature, gets the conversation onto its intended track. He reaches over the table, hooking his index finger around the Cartier bracelet with a smile. “Sure you need us?” he teases. Mingyu flushes.

“Ah, this was a gift, from a friend,” Mingyu explains. Jeonghan nods, but doesn’t retract his finger. 

“A friend?” Seungcheol asks, leaning back in the chair ever so slightly with an indiscernible expression. 

“Yeah, he’s the one who gave me the idea, for all of this,” Mingyu says, pointedly, hoping he’s made the implication clear enough. Their choir of hums tells him that he did. 

“So, all of this ,” Joshua says, same inflection as Mingyu, “what would you be looking to get out of it?” 

“Um, rent money, mostly. Meals too, sometimes, for my roommates too,” Mingyu replies. They all nod. 

“So, do we need to fill out, like, a contract, 50 Shades of Grey style, or? I made a list of all the stuff I’m most definitely not into doing, and the stuff I’d be absolutely down for.” He reaches into his back pocket and pulls out the crumpled list written on the back of a Chinese restaurant receipt. Jeonghan hesitantly picks it up, and the other two lean over to get a look. Seungcheol’s eyes widen comically when he registers the nature of the list . Jeonghan just bursts out laughing.

“How do you know what half this shit is?” Jeonghan says, rubbing away a tear. Seungcheol is still absolutely frozen, and Joshua looks like he’s about to seek directions to the nearest bridge.

“Oh, shit, no,” Joshua starts, rubbing his hand down his face. “This wasn’t, god -”

“This wasn’t about sex,” Seungcheol squeaks out, refusing to meet Mingyu’s eyes. Jeonghan is still cackling next to him. Mingyu is very, very confused. He tilts his head to the side, furrowing his eyebrows.

“No, fuck,” Joshua says, letting out a few more expletives before expelling a deep sigh. “I meant what I said over text, we aren’t really going to ask for anything in return, except for your company sometimes.” 

“Okay, to be fair, you can’t blame me for assuming,” Mingyu says, quietly. Joshua groans again.

“I mean, if you’re offering, I’d be absolutely interested in doing this ,” Jeonghan says, pointing to something near the bottom of the hell yeah list. Mingyu snatches the receipt out of his hands and haphazardly shoves it back into his pocket. His head is swimming with thoughts, with questions.

“You just want to pay for my rent, for nothing in return? Just like that? Just me? Don’t you guys have charities and shit to donate to?” 

“Plenty, which we give plenty of money to. But, like Shua said, this is also kind of for the company? We’d just like someone to spoil, spend time with. It wouldn’t just be rent either, we’d take you places, get you gifts, the works,” Seungcheol says, simply. 

“Why me ?”

“You’re cute. Nice eye candy to keep around,” Joshua replies. 

“Excellent photo choice by the way, you really know your strengths,” Jeonghan adds, and Mingyu knows exactly which one he’s talking about: courtesy of Minghao, a shot of him leaning on a fence at the beach last summer, bare skin glistening a little from the water, wet hair pushed back off of his forehead. Definitely a personal and, obviously, a fan favorite. 

Mingyu discreetly pinches his arm under the table, just to be absolutely sure this isn’t some elaborate fever dream. It feels, again, too good to be true. To be given money for doing absolutely nothing besides sitting around and looking pretty is something straight out of a thirteen year old’s One Direction Wattpad story. 

“And you’re all just friends?” They nod. “So, you’re basically like co parenting a dog.”

“Exactly!” “Kinda?” “ No .”

“We spend so much time together, we just thought it would be easier to get, well, one, together,” Jeonghan says, not helping the argument against the whole dog comparison in the slightest. It makes no sense, but Mingyu just goes with it. He’s really in no position to judge, or complain, especially not when he’s just successfully secured at least the next few months of rent with one conversation.

“Um, obviously, this requires some discretion. No Instagrams, Twitters, Tiktoks, um, whatever you use these days,” Jeonghan adds, with a wave of his hand. 

“What are you, 35?” Mingyu jokes, with a snort.

“32, actually, thank you very much .”

“Thir-thirty two? Both of you?” Mingyu asks, incredulously, looking frantically between Jeonghan and Joshua. “You literally look my age.” Jeonghan smiles in satisfaction.

“Flattery will get you very, very far with me, Mingyu-yah,” Jeonghan replies, seriously, putting a hand over his. Mingyu flushes at the contact. 

“I’m concerned that you think 32 is old,” Joshua mutters.

“Wait, both of you? Do I look 32 to you?” Seungcheol complains, more of a whine than anything. Mingyu finds it terribly cute. 

“He’s a fan , Cheollie, calm down, he definitely knows your birthday, if not your blood type,” Joshua notes, eliciting a spluttered denial from Mingyu.

“No, no, definitely not,” Mingyu assures. 

“D’you know Wonwoo’s?” Seungcheol asks, a little petulantly. 

He’s looking down at Mingyu’s phone, which is screen down, the Wonwoo photocard behind his phone case proudly on display. Mingyu flushes instantly, mentally berating himself for forgetting to take it out. He quickly turns his phone around, before taking it off the table and putting it onto his lap. 

“Oh, that’s too good,” Jeonghan says, with a bark of a laugh. Seungcheol glares at him. 

“If either of you ever tell Wonwoo, I’ll make sure they never find the body. God, I’d actually never hear the end of it,” Seungcheol says, voice trailing off into a little groan. 

“Hold on,” Joshua interjects, looking over at Mingyu with his eyes narrowed. “How old are you ? Oh, shit, you’re not one of those child geniuses who goes to college at 15 right? Oh, shit -”

“No, no, what the fuck, I’m 21, a senior, in college,” Mingyu assures, and Joshua’s face floods with relief.

“Ah, 21,” Jeonghan says, wistfully, to no one in particular. 

“Um, so, we don’t know exactly what our schedules are going to look like for the next few weeks, but we’d probably be able to squeeze in a hangout or two,” Seungcheol says. 

“We can exchange numbers so you can text us your class schedules, and your Venmo, or preferred method of payment,” Jeonghan says, so business-like that Mingyu feels the need to lighten the mood.

“And what if I said that was Red Velvet photocards?” 

“Try handing your landlord 5 Seulgis and see what happens,” Jeonghan replies.

“I don’t know, I’d take them,” Seungcheol says.

Okay , anyway, you most likely won’t see all of us at once all the time, if that’s okay with you,” Joshua says. 

Mingyu nods. It’s more than okay. This 15 minute conversation was by far one of the most chaotic moments of his life, he’s not quite sure he’s ready for a whole afternoon with all three of them. He holds his hand out for Mingyu’s phone, tapping away as he presumably makes a group chat with the three of them.

Despite the chaos, they all seem to work together like an extremely well oiled machine. They play off each other with ease, light bantering doing nothing to deter them from reaching a common goal. It’s clear, just with one meeting, how close they are, how well they know each other. Mingyu almost feels like he’s intruding. 

“Well, until then, don’t be a stranger. Just a warning, this one,” Jeonghan says, poking Joshua’s side, who hands back the phone with a grimace, “is a big texter. Don’t feel obligated to respond to any of his 1 AM rants. Actually, please don’t at all, he doesn’t need to be encouraged.” 

“Oh, and, did you want to order anything? The cupcakes here are to die for,” Seungcheol suggests, just as they’re beginning to get up from their seats. Mingyu considers it; after all, this is the arrangement, and he could go for an unreasonably expensive cupcake or two, but for some reason, he feels quite sheepish about it, so he shakes his head with a soft smile.

“This isn’t going to work if you’re gonna be this shy, Mingyu,” Jeonghan teases, reaching out to poke his cheek. 

“No, no, really, I’m fine, Seungcheol… ssi?” he tries. They’ve been speaking in English, but he’s always used honorifics with his older Korean friends. He’s just unsure what they’re comfortable with. 

“Hyung is fine,” Jeonghan says, in Korean, with a smirk. Mingyu swallows, there was nothing suggestive about what he said, but for some reason, Jeonghan’s expression says otherwise.

“O-okay then, thank you, hyungs, I’ll see you soon.” They all smile at him, before disappearing into a car pulled onto the curb that Mingyu hadn’t even noticed. Although, he thinks a tornado could have come and gone and he wouldn’t have noticed. 

A few minutes later, just as Mingyu has finished taking several deep breaths that did little to nothing to calm down his heart, and state of mind, he picks up his phone and nearly passes out in the chair when he sees the notification at the top. It’s a Venmo notification with more money than Mingyu thinks he’s ever had in his bank account at once. 

Maybe he will get a cupcake. 

——

Thankfully, Minghao doesn’t ask any questions when Mingyu sends him the rent money for that month. Or when Mingyu does the groceries himself and cooks a rather expensive set of meat for dinner one night. Or when Mingyu covertly replaces his ratty dance duffle bag with one of the really nice Nike ones that Minghao always stares longingly at when they pass by the store. 

So, naturally, Mingyu’s suspicious.

Either Minghao’s doing the thing where he pretends not to know something so he can throw it in your face a few weeks later, or he’s genuinely too caught up with all his work to turn on Protective Mode. Mingyu seriously hopes it's the latter, because even Seokmin has started to catch on, looking at Mingyu with narrowed eyes when he brings home pastries from a bakery in Beverly Hills one night after soccer practice.

“One of the guys’ girlfriends works there, she brought them,” he explains, and that seems to do it for Seokmin, who happily munches away on a danish without further complaints.

Mingyu does feel terrible for lying to them, but the conversation would be undoubtedly perilous. Plus, he’s not even sure if he’s allowed to tell them or not; Jeonghan did mention discretion, and while he’s sure neither of them would tell a soul, he doesn’t know if they’d be an exception.

Nonetheless, he maintains his front. He refrains from spending too much on himself, if not any at all. He paid his rent, and allocates most of the other spending money to getting things for his friends. 

The satisfaction of seeing Hansol’s face when Mingyu handed him the keyboard he’s been wanting for centuries as a late birthday gift lasted for a good few days. It feels good to give to them after they’ve given so much to him for so long. 

Despite their assurance, the three of them don’t text him too often, but Mingyu figures they’re just busy. He thinks he saw that Jeonghan and Joshua are walking some show this week in Milan, and he knows from Wonwoo’s recent studio selfie that Trauma is working on a new album. They do, however, continue to send him something of a weekly allowance. It takes Mingyu by surprise every time he receives the notification, no matter how many weeks have passed. 

Mingyu’s working on yet another econ paper when he gets a text notification. He hesitates, knowing if he picks it up, it’ll initiate a downward spiral of TikTok and eventually he’ll find himself two hours deep in some YouTube video essay with economics pushed out of his brain entirely. However, his resolutions are notoriously weak, and he picks up the phone. 

 

seungcheol (?!??! wtf)

hey

what r u up to tomorrow

 

Mingyu swallows, flushing a little bit at the sight of the contact name. He quickly changes it, then slides back to the conversation. If he can churn out this paper tonight, he figures, he’ll have most of tomorrow open, and he tells Seungcheol as much. 

 

mingyu

just practice until 12 ! 

seungcheol hyung

practice? 

mingyu

oh i play soccer at school lol

seungcheol hyung

so cute  

can i come

mingyu

choi seungcheol showing up to my soccer practice is practically the definition of indiscreet, hyung

seungcheol hyung

;--; :( </3 T__T

ok anyway would u maybe like to grab lunch after?

mingyu

yes of course!!!!

seungcheol hyung

great :D

ill send a car to ur school :) 

mingyu

oh um ill be all sweaty though :[

seungcheol hyung

definitely not a problem for me ;)

pack some deodorant 

 

Mingyu’s stomach is in knots all throughout practice. He’s still not sure what exactly a hangout with them entails, still somewhat suspicious of the simplicity of his involvement in their arrangement. 

He misses three easy shots on goal, fumbles passes like a kid learning how to play with their opposite foot for the first time, and finds himself staring at the sky for the greater part of the final scrimmage. None of his teammates give him too much grief, which he’s grateful for, but Jeongguk does shoot him a few suspicious looks throughout the morning. 

“What’s wrong with you today?” Jeongguk grumbles, snapping Mingyu’s captain band against his arm. They’ve finally wrapped up cool down drills, and Jeongguk and Mingyu are putting the equipment back into the team room. 

“Let’s just say I took your advice, and now I have a meetup today,” he replies, quietly. Jeongguk’s eyes widen in recognition before he claps Mingyu on the back, nearly dropping the cooler on Mingyu’s feet. 

Damn , so fast? Alright, post game dinner is on you on Saturday,” Jeongguk says, with a grin, far too loudly. Mingyu shushes him insistently. “Who is it? Actor? Singer?” 

“Can’t say, sorry,” he says, slinging his bag over his shoulder. Jeongguk whines, before his eyes zero in on the back of Mingyu’s phone, gasping dramatically.

“Shut up , you took the photocard out!” he exclaims, snatching the phone out of Mingyu’s hand. “You never take the photocard out! Oh my god ! Jeon fucking Wonwoo is your sugar daddy and you were just going to not tell me!” Jeongguk is Mingyu’s certified Trauma fan friend; they go to all the concerts together, gush over comebacks, send each other Twitter posts with keyboard smashes and frantic exclamation points. Ironically enough, Jeongguk is more of a Seungcheol stan.

“No, oh my god , no. I spilled water in my bag a few days ago and I didn’t want it to get wet later,” Mingyu lies. It’s a terrible lie, Mingyu dropped his phone in the ocean and still refused to take the card out. Jeongguk narrows his eyes. “I told you, I can’t say.”

“Oh come on , I told you about Taehyung hyung!”

“Yeah, 2 months after you started seeing him! Look, I’m sorry, but they asked me not to tell. Minghao and Seokmin don’t even know about it at all.” Jeongguk’s expression twists at that, into a little disapproving frown. 

Shit , Mingyu, you should tell them. For your own safety at least,” Jeongguk says, softly, hand going up to Mingyu’s shoulder. Mingyu looks down at his feet, staring intently at the synthetic blades of the turf.

Before Mingyu can answer, a black car screeches up to the stadium. Mingyu swallows, tightening his grip on his bag strap. He looks over hesitantly at Jeongguk, who’s still frowning. 

“I’ll share my location with you, kay?” he suggests. Jeongguk nods slowly. “I’m gonna be fine, I think. They really don’t seem like murderers or anything.”

“Wait, murderer s? ” Jeongguk calls, incredulously. Mingyu picks up his pace. 

Approaching the car, he hesitantly pulls at his shirt, checking just how bad the sweat damage is. Thankfully, due to his accidental lack of exertion, he doesn’t smell too bad. Nothing a few sprays of cologne can’t fix. 

The driver’s window rolls down, revealing a bored looking middle aged man. “Mingyu?” he asks. Mingyu nods in confirmation. “Get in, kid.”

Mingyu doesn’t think he moves a muscle the whole ride to the restaurant. He even sits on his extra jacket, terrified of ruining the leather seats. The mini fridge filled with various alcoholic beverages does tempt him, but he figures he needs to be absolutely sober for this. He does send a video to Jeongguk on Snapchat though, just to scratch the urge to just tell someone. 

 

jeonjk

nothing i havent seen before!

min9yu_k

ur an ass

jeonjk

ok but u did not answer my question?!!

do u or do u not have more than one sugar daddy

 

Mingyu leaves him on read. 

The car finally pulls up against the curb, and, not without a few deep breaths, Mingyu climbs out. He debates whether or not to take his bag, eventually deciding to hold onto it, not knowing if he was getting a ride home as well. 

If Mingyu felt out of place during the first meeting, it was nothing compared to how he feels now. He looks down at his practice t-shirt, old shorts and ratty sneakers and practically feels the plethora of judgemental eyes on him. The feeling transforms into full blown anxiety when he sees Seungcheol already sitting at one of the tables on the patio, scrolling through his phone. Mingyu wants to make a run for it. 

It’s too late; Seungcheol finally looks up and sees Mingyu standing frozen at the front of the restaurant’s gate. With a grin, he waves him in. 

“Hey- jesus , you’re taller than I thought,” Seungcheol says, eyeing Mingyu up and down with a laugh, “how was practice?”

“Oh, um, good!” Mingyu replies, sitting down nervously, hands folded over his lap.

“Captain, huh?” he notes, gesturing to the band on Mingyu’s arm. Mingyu flushes and pulls it off, shoving it into his bag. “D’you like bossing people around? Being in charge?” Mingyu’s eyes widen, but Seungcheol just laughs again. 

“Relax, I’m just teasing. Go ahead and look at the menu, order whatever you want.”

Mingyu nearly chokes when he sees the prices next to each menu item. He could easily cover a week’s worth of meals with the cost of just one of the appetizers. He looks up at Seungcheol, just to make sure this isn’t a test or something, but the older is nose deep in his phone. 

The waitress comes around a few minutes later. Seungcheol orders a cavatelli, Mingyu the seafood pasta. When she leaves, Seungcheol sets his phone down on the table, smiling up at Mingyu through long lashes, and the earnest look in his eyes genuinely makes Mingyu feel like the only person in the world. He thinks he may still have time to make a run for it, block all of their numbers, and live the rest of his life out in moneyless peace. 

Seungcheol doesn’t say anything though, so Mingyu frantically files through his brain (currently rendered useless by the sight of Seungcheol’s biceps straining in his t-shirt) for some topic of conversation. 

“So, how’s the album preparation going, hyung?” he finally asks, offhandedly. Seungcheol jolts up so fast that Mingyu nearly falls back in his chair.

“How do you know about that?” he whispers, eyes wide.

“Oh, um, I don’t, really? You guys have just been quiet lately, and when you do post, it’s always a picture in the studio so, it’s just an assumption, really,” Mingyu explains nervously. Seungcheol leans back in his chair with a sigh of relief.

“Damn, you guys are good,” he says, with a smile. Mingyu shrugs.

“All in a day’s work of being the fan of the two most cryptic individuals on Earth,” Mingyu replies. Seungcheol laughs. 

Contrary to the first meeting, most of the conversation this time around focuses on Seungcheol, who readily answers all of Mingyu’s eager Trauma related questions. Mingyu refrains from asking the most pertinent ones on his mind, aka, the Wonwoo related ones, remembering the way Seungcheol bored holes into his member’s smiling face on the back of Mingyu’s phone the other day. 

The food arrives promptly, and Mingyu salivates at the sight of his too-expensive, massive bowl of seafood pasta. Seungcheol smiles at his eagerness; Mingyu already having a prawn and a forkful of noodles in his mouth before the waitress even sets down Seungcheol’s own meal. They’re silent while they eat, Mingyu’s far too focused on savoring every single bite of his pasta. 

“Hey, would you like to come by my place for a bit? I could show you some stuff we’ve been working on,” Seungcheol says, offhandedly. Mingyu abruptly looks up, taking in the noodle that’s hanging out into his mouth with a graceless slurp. 

It sounds innocent, but Mingyu’s fluent in the language of Shit You Say To Get Into Someone’s Pants , and this seems like an excellent excuse. Then, his mind darts back to the first meeting, how they insisted that this relationship was most definitely not sexual in nature. He looks into Seungcheol’s eyes, hesitantly. The older didn’t seem deceptive in the slightest, none of them did, for that matter. And, besides, it’s Mingyu’s dream come true to hear a Trauma song prior to its release. 

Mingyu’s been quiet for far too long, and Seungcheol’s hopeful expression slowly starts to dissolve, the corners of his mouth turning down a little. Fuck it , Mingyu thinks, responding just as Seungcheol begins to open his mouth, presumably to reassure Mingyu that he doesn’t actually have to. 

“Yeah, I’d love to, hyung,” Mingyu eventually says. Seungcheol grins widely.

They wrap up pretty quickly after that. Seungcheol pays, smiling up at the waitress so sincerely that it makes her blush. Mingyu completely understands. He follows the older out to the parking garage, looking at him in confusion when they stop in front of a different, but equally expensive looking, empty car.

“I don’t like to be driven around,” Seungcheol explains, walking around the passenger side to grab the door for Mingyu, who thinks he’ll pass out if he blushes any harder. 

The drive to Seungcheol’s is, also, fairly quiet. Seungcheol lets Mingyu play his own music, which just serves to heighten his anxiety even further, because what exactly do you play for a musical genius? Mingyu settles on a bit of Troye Sivan and IZ*ONE, feeling extremely pleased with himself when Seungcheol hums along. 

Staring out the window, the ever present question he’s had since his conversation with Jeongguk floats through his head, insistently. He looks back over at Seungcheol, biting his lip nervously. However, most of the initial intimidation he felt with the older has dissipated over the course of the past few hours, Seungcheol surprisingly, or not so much at all, exuding a quite calming, open aura. 

“Hey, hyung, can I, um, ask you something?” Mingyu starts, hesitantly. Seungcheol, seemingly sending his anxiety, looks over at him with gentle, reassuring eyes, nodding slowly. 

“Of course, anything,” he says, and Mingyu’s heart threatens to melt all over the floor. 

“I know you said this needs to be kept on the D-L which I’m not going to go around and tell everyone I know or anything but would it be okay if I told my roommates no they’re not just my roommates they’re my best friends and I would feel a lot better if they knew and I feel terrible for keeping this from them and it’s okay if not I understand I swear they won’t tell anyon-“

Seungcheol stops his babbles with a large palm clamping onto his thigh. Mingyu looks up from where his eyes are trained on the floor to see the car pulled over on the side of the road, Seungcheol’s entire body turned to him, his eyes serious.

This is it , Mingyu thinks, it hasn’t even been a month and I absolutely fucked it up . His hand is already hovering over the handle of the door, entire body thrumming with disappointment. 

“Mingyu-yah, of course you can. I trust you, we all trust you, and we’d want you to do anything that makes you feel more comfortable. I know it’s easier said than done, but please don’t be nervous to ask us these kinds of things, or really ask us for anything at all,” Seungcheol says, earnestly. 

Mingyu freezes, mind unable to decide whether to focus on the soft eyes on him, the hand still on his thigh, or the way Seungcheol just perfectly absolved all of his concerns with a few sentences. He takes back what he thought before, he’s never met anyone as well spoken as Choi Seungcheol, it’s a little too much to handle. 

“Sorry, was that not helpful, like at all? I’m terrible with words, it’s why I make music, I know that’s cliche, but-“ 

It’s Mingyu’s turn to stop a ramble, putting his hand over Seungcheol’s. “No, hyung, you’re totally fine, thank you. I really appreciate it.” He smiles, and Seungcheol returns it, dimples poking out ever so slightly. 

There’s so much more that he wants to say, it’s all on the tip of his tongue, and he has to break eye contact with the older to keep it all at bay. Perhaps, he’s realizing now, this was all a terrible idea. The way his heart is fluttering, the way his stomach is in knots, and the way every inch of his skin is hot is dangerous . And it’s only been a few hours. And he hasn’t even done this with Jeonghan or Joshua yet. 

Part of the reason he’s kept the secret from Minghao and Seokmin for so long is because he knows what he’ll hear. He’s notorious for falling fast and hard, has had a billion little crushes here and there that developed from as little as one flirty conversation at a party. An indefinable, yet definitely not romantic, relationship with three generous , handsome, older guys is probably a recipe for disaster. 

It’s for the rent, he convinces himself. He’s a grown man, he can hold back his feelings for the greater good. This most definitely does not have to end the way his friends will expect it to. 

The tension dissolves after that, the two of them singing loudly along to Panorama as Seungcheol turns onto a short road lined with very expensive looking penthouse complexes. Pulling into a driveway, he parks the car, handing the keys over to an attendant, and climbing out of the driver’s seat, indicating for Mingyu to do the same. 

They enter a luxurious lobby, go up a luxurious elevator, all to the entrance of a fucking luxurious penthouse. Mingyu’s heart is in his throat, obviously he expected Seungcheol to live like this, but to see it in person is quite shocking, especially when he’s dressed like, well, a broke college athlete. 

Said heart threatens to shoot right up to the sky when the door swings open, revealing a massive living room, with a sleepy Jeon Wonwoo perched on the couch, furiously scribbling on a small notebook. Mingyu grips on the doorway to stabilize himself, not sure if he should, again, make a run for it, pull out his phone and keyboard smash a few dozen tweets, or get on his knees in front of Wonwoo and pledge his unwavering, eternal loyalty. 

“What are you doing here, asshole?” Seungcheol says, throwing his phone at Wonwoo’s head, where it hits its mark, right in the center of his forehead. Wonwoo groans, rubbing at the spot with a grimace.

Ow , hyung, what the fuc- oh, hi, Mingyu, right?” Mingyu squeaks, stands frozen behind the door, feet already starting to break out in a sprint. 

He’s had many a fantasy of what a meeting with Wonwoo would look like. Ideally, he would be butt-ass naked on a bed full of roses, not dripping in sweat from practice and Los Angeles heat in his sugar daddy’s apartment. 

“Is he…  okay?” Wonwoo asks Seungcheol, hesitantly, after a few solid minutes of silence. 

“He’s your fan,” Seungcheol grumbles, and Wonwoo’s eyes light up with pure, unadulterated joy. 

“This is the best day of my life.”

“Okay, come on, Mingyu-yah. The man puts milk before his cereal, he’s not worth this,” Seungcheol says, grabbing onto Mingyu’s arm and dragging him inside. 

“No one’s perfect,” Mingyu defends. He sees Wonwoo grin out of the corner of his eye and feels his knees threaten to give out as Wonwoo gets up off the couch and comes towards them. 

“It is very nice to meet you, I’m Wonwoo,” he says, holding out his hand. Mingyu just stares at it for a few moments, absolutely blanking on what exactly he’s supposed to do with it, before it finally clicks that he should do the same.

“He knows,” Seungcheol says. Mingyu and Wonwoo both glare at him.

H-hi , I’m Mingyu, um, I like what you do,” he says, dumbly, before physically reaching a hand up to smack his forehead. “No, fuck , I mean, yeah, I’m a fan, a big one, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” 

Wonwoo’s expression softens at that, before his face scrunches, somewhat studying Mingyu’s features. His eyes suddenly widen in recognition, snapping his fingers. “Shit! I remember you, you’re the one who threw the wedding ring at me at the Ideal Cut finale! Crop top, killer abs, front row.” 

It was the greatest moment of Mingyu’s life. Wonwoo grabbed the $5 ring off the ground, and slipped it on his ring finger, staring right into Mingyu’s eyes with a smirk and a purposeful tilt of his head. He went viral on Twitter for it. His display name is still Mr. Jeon. 

“You remember that?” Mingyu asks, incredulously. It was pretty memorable, but Trauma fans do all sorts of crazy things at concerts. Wonwoo nods. 

“‘Course. I kept it too. You were cute,” Wonwoo explains and Mingyu is actually starting to feel light-headed. 

“Are you seriously fucking flirting with him in front of me?” Seungcheol says, indignantly. Mingyu feels a little bad that he nearly forgot Seungcheol was there. Wonwoo shrugs.

“I mean, technically, he’s a free man, right?” Wonwoo challenges. Mingyu pauses, turning to Seungcheol to gauge his reaction, but the oldest just rolls his eyes. Mingyu’s not sure why he feels disappointed.

Alright , we’re leaving. Don’t drink my alcohol, or I’ll kill you,” Seungcheol says. 

“And break Mingyu’s heart?” Wonwoo teases. Seungcheol tightens his grip on Mingyu’s arm and pulls him out of the living room and down the hallway. 

“It was nice meeting you, Wonwoo-ssi!” Mingyu calls, over his shoulder.

“Call me hyung!” Wonwoo replies.

“Do not ,” Seungcheol growls. Mingyu just laughs. 

Seungcheol brings him to something of a makeshift studio in one of the (massive) spare bedrooms. Mingyu takes in the room with awe, realizing some of his most beloved songs have come out of this very equipment. It’s all so Seungcheol too, pictures of friends and family, mostly of Jeonghan and Joshua, he notes), little trinkets from places they’ve been on tour, massive CD collection, plaques in between paintings on the wall, and strangely enough, a weightlifting set in the corner. 

“So, this is where the magic happens,” Mingyu says, running a hand over the couch pushed against the wall. The room is awfully clean, he notes, the whole house is.

“Ah, actually, I don’t really use this too much. I get too distracted while I’m at home, and honestly, I’m rarely at home. More Trauma songs have come out of Jeonghan’s kitchen than anywhere else,” Seungcheol says, with a laugh. He’s already at the desk, fumbling with the computer, scrolling through what looks like over a couple hundred files of music. Mingyu refrains from salivating.

“Here, tell me what you think,” Seungcheol says, handing him a pair of headphones and gesturing for him to sit at the desk. Mingyu doesn’t feel worthy, but he does anyway. 

It’s an R&B song, Mingyu’s absolute favorite genre for Trauma, and his heart skips a beat when he picks up on the Aaliyah sample. Seungcheol’s voice comes in after a lengthy instrumental intro, soft rap crooning about the hopeful warmth of a new love. It’s surprisingly sweet, something straight out of a teen romance movie, and Mingyu can’t help but smile as he nods along. As with most Trauma songs, it’s in a mix of Korean and English, the chorus being in the former, lyrics in the latter.

“I know,” Seungcheol says, sheepishly, taking the headphones from Mingyu once the song ends, “it’s pretty damn cheesy.”

“No, no, it’s cute , I love it. Are you guys going to use it?”

“I don’t know,” he replies, rubbing the back of his head. “The label says it probably wouldn’t work for a Trauma album, but I was thinking, maybe, for a mixtape?” Mingyu’s eyes nearly fly out of his head. Neither Seungcheol nor Wonwoo have dropped mixtapes in the 12 years they’ve been in Trauma, always dismissing questions about it in interviews. The only solo work they do are features on other artist’s songs.

“Really? A mixtape?” Mingyu asks, eagerly. 

“Yeah, I don’t know, it’s about time, don’t you think?”

“That’s so exciting , hyung. Of course, Trauma albums are incredible, but I can’t wait to hear how your individual music styles come out! That is so cool, I can’t believe I get to hear about it first.”

“You’re so cute, I can practically see a tail wagging behind you,” Seungcheol says, laughing fondly at his own joke, ruffling Mingyu’s hair. 

Seungcheol lets him listen to a few more songs. Most of them are soft like the first, but one is a lot more rap heavy, reminding Mingyu of the older Trauma songs: angry, scathing, critical, phenomenal . The lyrics in question critique elitism in the music industry via vague but powerful disses and clever wordplay signature to Choi Seungcheol. 

“You’re so talented,” Mingyu says, dreamily, his cheek smushed on the desk. Seungcheol laughs again, running his fingers through Mingyu’s hair. Mingyu’s sure he could listen to Seungcheol laugh all day, it has its own musicality to it. 

“Thank you, baby.” Mingyu’s eyes widen at the pet name, blush creeping up on his cheeks. “Fuck, sorry, is that okay? I didn’t-”

“It’s fine, I don’t mind, I, um, I like it,” Mingyu admits, quietly. 

“Noted,” Seungcheol says, grinning. 

Mingyu decides to leave shortly after that, figuring any longer and his friends would send out a SWAT team to search for him. Seungcheol offers to drive him home, and Wonwoo tries to tag along but Seungcheol shoots him a glare that could bore a hole straight through concrete, and he relents. 

He feels a little self conscious as Seungcheol pulls up to his apartment complex, far far more rundown than the one he’s just been in, but the older doesn’t betray any judgement. After he parks the car, Seungcheol turns to Mingyu with a soft grin. 

“This was really fun, Mingyu-yah. I’ll text you later, yeah?”

It feels like a date. Everything about this feels like a date, feels like Seungcheol’s courting Mingyu: expensive restaurant, listening to music, getting a ride home. It feels like a date except this is definitely not romantic, no matter how much Mingyu wants to convince himself that Seungcheol’s eyes say otherwise. This is just the arrangement, he’s literally getting paid to be here. It’s easy to forget, though.

Still, he can’t hold back the dopey smile that absolutely refuses to leave his face the whole walk up back to his apartment. He clutches his soccer bag strap tightly, trying to ease the butterflies smacking against the walls of his stomach. 

The bliss, predictably, doesn’t last long.

The second he opens the door to the apartment, Minghao and Seokmin shoot out in front of him, seemingly out of nowhere, stern looks on their faces. Mingyu knows he’s done for.

“What the hell were you doing at a 5 star restaurant in Beverly Hills?” 

“And then at a penthouse complex in Brentwood?” 

Mingyu gulps, eyes darting between the two of them. “Damn, no hello, how was your day Mingyu? ” he jokes. Minghao sighs in exasperation.

“You’re fucking obnoxious, you know that?” he says, with a heavy glare, reaching an arm out to shove at Mingyu’s shoulder.. Mingyu takes a step forward towards him, fire building in his gut at the provocation, but Seokmin stops him with a hand on his chest. 

“We know you’re hiding something, you have been for weeks now,” Seokmin starts, steelily. He then sighs, stony expression dissolving into something kinder, but no less concerned. “Whatever it is, we can figure out together, or, we can help you. We’re worried about you, asshole.”

Just as he opens his mouth to respond, Mingyu gets a ping on his phone which he’s sure is from Venmo. Minghao must sense his panic, because he narrows his eyes, looking first intently at Mingyu’s face, then down at his phone. 

“What is it?” Minghao asks, innocently. 

“Probably some shit from Twitter,” Mingyu replies, trying his best to keep his voice steady.

“Check it, then.” Mingyu stares at him with a challenging look, but Minghao doesn’t waver, just reciprocates with one of equal, if not greater, intensity. 

“Why? It’s just some dumb notification.” 

“If it’s so dumb, you won’t mind that I’m asking you to check it.” 

“For fuck’s sake,” Seokmin mutters, snatching the phone out of Mingyu’s hand who yelps in indignance. Seokmin’s eyes widen almost comically when he glances at the screen, dropping the phone flat on the floor alongside his jaw. Minghao immediately goes down to pick it up, takes one look at the notification, and drops it again like he’s been burned. 

The five minutes of silence that follow is deafening, both of his friends standing absolutely frozen, staring down at the phone that’s still face up on the ground. 

“Mingyu,” Minghao starts, voice dangerously calm. “Who the fuck is sending you 3 grand, and why?” Mingyu lets out a deep breath, he wasn’t anticipating having this conversation now , but he figures now’s a good time as any.

“Um, remember a few weeks ago when we were talking about Jeongguk-” They do, apparently, because Seokmin goes from disbelief to complete and utter bewilderment, and Minghao lets out a staggered breath ridden with disappointment. 

“Okay, it’s not as bad as you think it is-” he starts. 

“You have a sugar daddy ? Are you fucking crazy?” Minghao shouts. 

“Is that why you’re all sweaty? Oh my god , what did he make you do?!” Seokmin exclaims. Mingyu runs a hand down his face. 

“Can I please fucking explain?” Mingyu shouts over them. They go silent, looking up at him, expectantly. “For starters, they’re not asking for sex.” 

“There’s more than one ?” Seokmin asks, looking like he’s about to faint like a Victorian woman who’s just let a man catch sight of her ankles. Mingyu shoots him a glare.

“I used this website, and granted, it wasn’t very safe, but I met them three weeks ago, and, fuck , guys, they’re really nice, and just want to fucking give me money for no reason. All I have to do is hang out with them sometimes.” 

His friends do not look convinced.

“This sounds like the scam of the century,” Minghao says, arms crossed. 

“Who are they?” Seokmin asks, nervously, like he’s positive he’s not going to like the answer.

“Trauma’s S.Coups, and Yoon Jeonghan and Joshua Hong the models,” he replies, quietly. 

“What the fuck ?” 

“Mingyu, do you understand what this means?” Seokmin asks, seriously, hands on Mingyu’s shoulders. Mingyu shakes his head slowly. “You are Y slash N. You must not take this role lightly.” Minghao groans and Mingyu rolls his eyes. 

Anyways , so they really aren’t asking for, well, the sugar?” Minghao asks. Mingyu shakes his head.

“Nope, I was just with Seungcheol and we had lunch, then went back to his palace and actually just listened to music.”

“Holy shit , is that where you’ve been getting the money for all that random stuff? I thought you just started selling feet pics or something,” Seokmin says. 

“How is that any less concerning?”

I’m concerned that you think it’s not.”

“I want to meet them,” Minghao says, decisively, interrupting their banter. “And don’t,” he starts, one finger prodding at Mingyu’s chest, “think you’re off the hook. This was extremely dangerous, and even if you were going to do it regardless, you should have told us for your own fucking safety.” 

“I honestly don’t think I have to tell you why this is a terrible idea,” he continues. “But, you’re a grown man, and can make decisions for yourself. I’ll leave you be, considering you clearly didn’t value my opinion in the first place. But, do not come fucking crying to me when you fall in love and get your heart broken,” he snaps, and it burns, so much that Mingyu can practically feel the sting against his skin.

Before Mingyu can respond, Minghao shakes his head quickly and turns around, walking down the hallway to his bedroom, closing the door with a resounding slam. Mingyu frowns, looking back at Seokmin who looks like he’s deciding between either eagerly asking Mingyu a billion questions or also choosing to be angry with him. He sighs, looking up at Mingyu apologetically. 

“This was pretty fucked up, Gyu-yah. We just want you to be careful, and safe. Really, anything could’ve happened,” Seokmin says, softly, fumbling with his fingers. The oldest is terrible with confrontation, avoids it at all costs, so Mingyu knows he’s really fucked up. 

“I’m not as mad as Minghao, and I can kinda see why you didn't tell us, but you still should’ve. You’re an adult, obviously you can handle yourself, but if something ever happened to you, I don’t know what I’d-” He pauses, letting out a staggered breath, and Mingyu wants to throw himself off a bridge when he realizes Seokmin’s started crying. All he wants to do is reach out and comfort his best friend, both of them, for that matter. But , he did this, Mingyu has to remind himself, as heartbreaking as it is. 

Seokmin shakes his head to himself, brushing at his eyes with the back of his hand. He still manages to offer Mingyu a soft, sad smile, before disappearing down the hallway. 

Mingyu lets himself crash onto the floor, clutching his knees to his chest as he scoots back to lean against the door. Terrible is an understatement for how he feels; because he knows, he’s known all along that he should’ve told them the second he made the profile, if not before. All they wanted to do was make sure he was safe. Guilt is futile, he thinks, but it’s all consuming.

They don’t ever fight, not really. Just light bickering here and there that only lasts for a few hours, before someone brings home food and all animosity is promptly forgotten. But Mingyu recognizes that with this, he’s effectively betrayed years of built up trust. He doesn’t know how to fix it, or how many apologies it’ll take. 

What feels even worse is that the thing he wants to do most is not curl up in his bed and listen to FKA Twigs while the days pass him by, but instead, drive right over to Seungcheol’s and let the older run his fingers through his hair just as he was doing not an hour ago. 

Mingyu thinks he should keep the broom from the closet in his bedroom, in anticipation for the broken pieces of his heart he’ll have to eventually sweep up. 

Just on cue, he gets a ping on his phone, and his heart races, pathetically hoping it’s from Seungcheol. It’s from Joshua, and the wretched thing doesn’t slow down in the slightest. 

 

joshua hyung

hey!!! did you have fun with cheol today :D

btw he told me about the convo u guys had and i want u to know 

just like he said

please don’t be afraid of asking us about or for anything ;--; 

your comfort is our priority. i mean it!!!! 

if u ever wanna do anything or not do anything or if u ever need anything

you can ask any one of us

without hesitation . i promise

sorry for the spam but get some rest, and good luck on the chem test <3

 

He completely forgot he even told Joshua about that, is surprised the older remembered. Is even more surprised that he took time out of his likely busy schedule to attempt to absolve Mingyu of his silly anxieties. 

Minghao has a terribly likely chance of being one hundred percent correct. And Mingyu realizes he’s known that all along, too.